Education Secretary Betsy DeVos outlined Thursday her plan to overhaul the Obama administration's "failed system" of Title IX enforcement, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination and harassment in education.
Speaking at the George Mason University (GMU) Antonin Scalia Law School, DeVos called for a "better way" for colleges and universities to investigate Title IX cases, one that would afford due process to both survivors and students accused of sexual misconduct.
The secretary commended the previous administration for bringing national attention to the issue of sexual assault, but that "good intentions alone are not enough."
"Justice demands humility, wisdom, and prudence. It requires serious pursuit of truth," DeVos said.
"The prior administration weaponized the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to work against schools and against students," she said. "The sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today."
DeVos repeatedly referred to the "failed system" that can leave survivors without an avenue that assures them proper, thorough investigations into reported incidents, and place the accused before "kangaroo courts," in which campus administrators with no legal background act as judge and jury.
DeVos said the department "will launch a notice-and-comment process to incorporate insights of all parties" to develop a new "workable, effective, and fair system."
Noting that alternative approaches to sexual assault cases have already been introduced around the country, DeVos referred to the "Regional Center" model, proposed by two former prosecutors. The system would create opt-in Title IX centers staffed by experts who would handle cases sent to them by participating universities.
The Department of Education will look to develop a clear definition of sexual misconduct, and to raise the standard of proof required in adjudicating sexual misconduct cases.
DeVos also noted that "emotions run high" on this issue, recognition of the blowback she has received for sitting down with both survivors and those accused of committing assault.